Sitting comfortably in the top 100 of the world’s Top 500 Bars at number 57, Edinburgh based Panda & Sons have launched their latest cocktail menu, ‘Transcend’ which uses sub-zero techniques invented or evolved by the Panda team. Owner Iain McPherson says:
“The new menu is for those that want to ‘geek out’ on the new techniques or simply want to drink great cocktails and don’t care how they’re made”.
Known within the industry as ‘The Cocktail Panda’, McPherson has also been dubbed the ‘Willy Wonka of the Drinks Industry’.
Gaining a degree from the Gelato University in Bologna and also completing the “Science of Ice Cream course” at The University of Reading in 2016, McPherson found a passion for exploring the world of subzero temperatures and applying them to the world of drinks and cocktails in a
never-before-seen approach for the industry.
“No one else is doing this. We’ve invented completely new methods for cocktail making, which is exciting,” comments Panda & Sons Bar Manager, Nicky Craig.
The first and only bar globally to do so, McPherson purchased a freeze dryer and set up ‘The Brain Melting Society’ in the basement of sister bar, Nauticus. Alongside Nicky, they experiment with freezing techniques with the aim to increase the flavour spectrum that is currently available to the bar industry.
McPherson explains: “Chefs use heat to bring out the best qualities in their ingredients, bringing them together to create amazing fusions of flavours and textures. I want to do the same for cocktails but using cold rather than heat.”
After five years of research, development and fine-tuning, the team launched their new menu dedicated to freezing techniques. Transcend features 16 cocktails that celebrate the team’s foray into freezing using four core techniques; Switching, Sous Pression, Freeze Drying and Cryo Concentration.
‘Switching’ freezes and separates the water content from a spirit, allowing it to be ‘switched’ with another flavourful ingredient. For example in their renowned Coconut Daiquiri, they freeze and extract the water content in Bacardi Blanca White rum and replace it with roasted coconut milk which is then clarified. The end result offers a deliciously smooth and creamy finish.
‘Sous Pression’ uses the extreme force of freezing by containing the process in a 2l stainless steel keg, freezing fruit in this way leeches flavour for a highly concentrated result. “It is sous vide from an alternative reality,” says Iain.
‘Freeze Drying’ extracts 99% of the water from an ingredient to create a dried product that maintains the cell structure and maximises its fresh flavour. Unlike the more common dehydrator, freeze-drying is reversible and allows the team to break the barriers of seasonal products and expand their flavour routes all year round. It also allows them to do a pure flavour infusion without any dilution, which is showcased in their Seville Negroni.
Finally, ‘Cryo Concentration’ is a technique which mimics the process of ripening of fruit by freezing and extracting the water content from the juice. This gives a consistent level of ripeness and can be repeated to make flavourful cordials. Cryo Concentration reduces the dilution of juice and spirits, in turn lowering the freezing point which allows drinks to be made colder and fresh flavours (normally lost in the cooking process) to be maintained.
Despite currently being a unique offering at Panda & Sons which McPherson could patent for exclusivity, The Cocktail Panda believes in the opposite, explaining, “I want to keep our industry progressive, so knowledge sharing is paramount to achieve this and to encourage others to do the same”
Transcend is available in Panda & Sons now and the bar is at 79 Queen Street, Edinburgh, Eh2 4NF - 0131 220 0443